Is Amazon Buying A High-End Fashion E-Tailer?

Amazon is in “ongoing talks” to buy high-fashion online retailer Net-a-Porter for as much as $2.2 billion, Women’s Wear Daily reported on Thursday (March 26).

The deal, if it goes through, would give Amazon a level of fashion respectability it has long coveted, if only by association. Most high-fashion brands aren’t willing to officially sell their products through Amazon, and some are leery of even being sold through Shopbop and MyHabit, the fashion e-retailers that Amazon owns.

Neither Amazon or Net-a-Porter’s owner, Swiss holding company Richemont, would confirm that the companies are talking. Rumors that Richemont — which also owns luxury brands Cartier, Piaget, and Van Cleef & Arpels — have been around since late 2013, according to Fashionista. Richemont bought Net-a-Porter in 2010, and it’s the only one of its brands that doesn’t make products.

For its part, Amazon has been trying to buy into fashion respectability for almost a decade, acquiring Shopbop in 2006 and MyHabit in 2011. Amazon has also opened a large photo studio intended for fashion shoots in Brooklyn and announced a similar one it’s planning for London. But a 2014 study by brand analyst L2 found that, of 32 luxury brands it tracked, only 5 (or about 16 percent) were officially associated with Amazon.

It’s not that the brands were philosophically opposed to doing business with Amazon — Shopbop carried 14 (44 percent) of the brands, and flash-sales site MyHabit carried 26 of them (81 percent). They apparently just don’t want to be associated with Amazon’s own down-market brand.

Net-a Porter has even more of a luxury reputation than Amazon’s other fashion properties, as well as enough eCommerce experience to make it a match for Amazon — not all of it good. Over the 2014 Black Friday period, for example, Net-A-Porter’s eCommerce site was inaccessible for nearly two days when customers overloaded the site after word of its Black Friday sale leaked early. On the other hand, on Cyber Monday Net-a-Porter came through with two-day delivery in an annual Kurt Salmon survey, while Amazon clocked in at three days.